Linguistics and biology

Ádám Nádasdy, on whose article I relied extensively for the discussion of József Budenz and the Finno-Ugric linguistic relationship, notes that just because people speak similar languages doesn’t necessarily mean they are biological relatives. Historians like to say, continues Nádasdy, that if two groups of people live nearby it is likely that are also related in the physical sense. The linguist, continues Nádasdy, can’t really agree or disagree; he will only say, “maybe” or “possibly.” Nowadays with the help of genetic studies we can come up with some tentative answers.

I found two fascinating blogs by a man who is interested mainly in Polish genetic studies, but by virtue of the intermingling of people on the Continent he also has a blog on general European genetics and anthropology. I’m unfamiliar with the field of genetics and anthropology but these blogs seem reliable to me. If not, I’m sure I will hear from my readers to the contrary. In the Polish genetic blog our author wrote an article entitled “Are Hungarians really Ugric?” And the answer is, not very much. By way of illustration he attached a diagram showing the cluster of Finns (Suomi) and other ethnic groups in Europe. On the guide “Ruotsi” means Swedes, “Viro” means Estonia, “Venäjä” means Russians, and “Tanska” Danish. Down there just a little East of the Brits there are the “Unkari,” the Hungarians.

However, it is likely that more than a thousand years ago a Uralic marker known as Tat-C allele was frequent in the Hungarian invaders. A group of Hungarian researchers at the University of Szeged where most of the DNA genealogical research is being conducted came up with an interesting study, the abstract of which can be found in PubMed. According to the abstract the Tat- C allele is a marker in the Finno-Ugric context, distributed in all the Finno-Ugric speaking populations except for the Hungarians. However, when they studied four Hungarian bone samples from the tenth century, out of the four two carried the Tat-C allele while out of 100 modern Hungarians from Hungary proper and 97 Transylvanian Hungarians only one carried this marker. So the invading Hungarians originally came from Siberia where this marker is prevalent, but since then this Asiatic marker has mostly disappeared due to intermarriages with people living in Central Europe and the Balkans. If anyone wants to learn more about the Tat-C debate this is a good site.

Modern Hungarians carry a lot of R1a1 and R1b, which are associated with South Asia, Southern Siberia, Central Europe and Scandinavia but it seems these lineages are largely of Germanic and West Slavic, i.e. Indo-European origin. Our Polish genealogist comes to the conclusion that today one “may find some traces of [Magyar horsemen] on the Hungarian Plain away from the large urban centers but it is very rare.”


  1. @Some1 “Who cares who we are related to?”
    By the way I’d like to be related to Mick Jagger …

  2. @ Paul. You noticed also that the illustration of Arpad and the Hungarians arriving is really copied from an old Life magazin pictorial of the Pope stopping the Huns at the gates of Rome? 🙂
    In those days there must have been a custom rental agency renting to Scythians, Sarmatians, Huns, Avars, Hungarians, Cumans etc. the same outfits…..

  3. @ Louis “must have been a custom rental agency”
    They were running a Halloween special …

  4. @Paul. There are many books on the Huns and most of them have nothing original in them. You may want read the extant sections of Priscus who actually had seen Attila and visited his residence in the Carpathian basin.
    There were several other texts written hundreds of years later mainly by Gothic writers (Cassiodorus and Jordanes, the latter mainly copying sections of Cassiodorus) who worked for the Byzantines which are distorted to make the Goths superior in any and all aspects. Some of these are available in dual texts where one is English.

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